OpinionJournal - Extra: "It is a peculiar moment in academia. In many ways, things have never been worse. All those radical trends that got going in the 1960s and gained steam in the 1970s and 1980s are now so thoroughly entrenched that they are simply taken for granted.
The chief issue is this: Should our institutions of higher education be devoted primarily to the education of citizens--or should they be laboratories for social and political experimentation?
Since the 1960s, however, colleges and universities have more and more been home to what Lionel Trilling called the "adversary culture of the intellectuals." The goal was less reflection than rejection. The English novelist Kingsley Amis once observed that much of what was wrong with the 20th century could be summed up in the word "workshop." Nowadays, "workshop" has been largely replaced by the word "studies." Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Afro-American Studies, Women's Studies, Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Studies: These are not the names of academic disciplines but political grievances. They exist not to further liberal education but to nurture the feckless antinomianism that Jacques Barzun dubbed "directionless quibble.
The use and abuse of academic freedom to indemnify not the expression of unpopular opinions but political incitement of various kinds is one symptom of the degradation of American academic life.
Academics have an unspoken compact with society. As scholars, their charge is to pursue the truth in their chosen discipline; as teachers, their charge is to help preserve and transmit the truth by encouraging thoughtful study and candid discussion. The largely unspoken nature of this compact was part of its glory--it underscored the element of freedom that has always been a central ingredient in liberal education. To a large extent, that freedom has been violated. "